WashPost Hails Libertarian Spoiler on Page One: 'Folksy and Erudite, Funny and Earnest'

Instapundit cracked wise this morning: “How can a Libertarian get favorable treatment in The Washington Post? Be in a position to deliver a Senate seat to the Dems.”

In a front-page article on Monday, Post reporters Reid Wilson and Karen Tumulty cited the precedent of last year’s gubernatorial race in Virginia – where Democrat Terry McAuliffe won with a 2.6 percent margin of victory while “libertarian” Robert Sarvis drew 6.5 percent – to hope for a pizza delivery man named Sean Haugh to stop the Republicans from winning in North Carolina:

So far, Haugh’s campaign barely exists anywhere but on YouTube. But it is doing surprisingly well in a high-stakes Senate contest in which candidates and outside groups have already spent more than $15 million.


Four polls lately put his support somewhere between 8 and 11 percent — not enough to suggest a realistic possibility of winning, but conceivably enough to affect the outcome of the race. The same surveys show the margin between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan and her GOP challenger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, at six points or less.

“If it ends up being a one- or two-point race, Democrats could keep the Senate because of Sean Haugh,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling (PPP), which showed the Libertarian at 11 percent in its May and June surveys.

That scenario might seem far-fetched, but considering how closely the battle for control of the Senate is being fought across the national map, the major parties are taking notice.

Wilson and Tumulty note the Libertarians don't like to be thought of as spoilers, but that's exactly what the Democratic Posties are hoping for. They tout Haugh’s videos, made in the basement of his campaign manager:

In his messages, Haugh comes off as folksy and erudite, funny and earnest.

“In Syria, we’re supporting Sunni extremist rebels against government forces, but in Iraq, we’re supporting government forces against the Sunni extremists. How crazy is that?” he asks in one of the segments.

He acknowledges that these videos, the most popular of which has been viewed just over 8,000 times, do not explain his splash in the polls. Nor has his fundraising been particularly impressive; his campaign has brought in around $4,000, including $600 from his mother, a few other three-figure checks and one-tenth of a bitcoin.

But space in The Washington Post qualifies as an in-kind contribution of publicity. While the article suggests the videos aren't exactly a sensation, a Post video presentation on them is titled "Libertarian Sean Haugh's YouTube sensations."

They didn't note how Libertarians can get in some nasty fights within their ranks, like accusations in 2008, when Haugh was political director for the national Libertarian Party, that he ordered that ballot-access signatures be burned. They didn't mention the angry YouTube videos on Haugh's "election crimes," perhaps because that doesn't sound folksy or erudite.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis